WALLA WALLA — Prepare for some old-school football at Borleske Stadium Friday night.
The Blue Devils (2-1) plan to keep the ball on the ground (just like Davis knew last Friday, which didn’t stop Wa-Hi from piling up more than 300 yards on the ground in that 28-18 victory), but so will the Hanford Falcons in a Mid-Columbia Conference showdown at 7 p.m.
And Hanford’s defensive line should provide a stiffer challenge than the aforementioned Pirates.
“They are about like looking in a mirror with a different color on,” Wa-Hi coach Eric Hisaw said of the Falcons. “They’re in the same kind of front we’re in for the most part. It’s kind of eerie a little bit, you know.”
Led by senior running back Jalen DeVine, the Falcons (2-1) have ammassed 673 yards of rushing this season, second only to Wa-Hi’s 844 rushing yards.
Wa-Hi’s feature back, Jonah Hoe, leads the MCC with 558 yards on the season after running for 274 and four touchdowns at Davis, but Devine, with 478 yards, isn’t far behind.
“He’s a tough, physical kid,” Hisaw said of DeVine. “I don’t want to say he’s Jonah in that aspect, but he’s not afraid to run between tackle and tackle.”
Bringing DeVine down if he breaks through the D-line will be key for the Blue Devils, who have struggled with giving up big plays this season.
“He’ll take a guy on and try to run you over,” Hisaw said. “He runs with the ball very well when he gets outside of the box. He’s hard to bring down one-on-one. He’s got a lot of tools, he’s a very talented young man.”
And right now, the same thing could be said for Hoe, whose four touchdowns at Davis almost single-handedly eclipsed the five he scored all of 2011.
“I think he’s in a pretty good groove right now,” Hisaw said about his workhorse rusher. “He’s got a pretty good feel for the game in general. He does things that you don’t want to over-coach. But he’s been very humble about it, and he knows that things don’t happen if the big guys up front don’t take care of him.”
The similarities don’t end on offense, as both teams figure to stuff the run.
Hanford has the second-best rushing defense in the MCC, but is facing a Wa-Hi defensive line that allowed just eight yards (50 yards not including sacks) to Davis.
“We’re starting to play run defense really well,” Hisaw said. “We’re starting to be physical. Kids are understanding the nuances and the feel of things well, so I think we’re getting to the point where we can stop the run on most folks and let them kind of deal with trying to pass on us now.”
Neither team has used the passing game except as a window-dressing, with Hanford’s Austin Forsyth completing 19-of-41 passes for 317 yards and Wa-Hi’s Dakota Turner 20-of-30 for 224.
Coaches turned down the heat at practice this week, with Hisaw saying the Blue Devils are starting to feel the grind of the season.
“They (Blue Devils) focused more in the first three weeks this season probably more than they have in their first three years together,” Hisaw said. “It’s different on them mentally, so they’re trying to get used to playing through that stuff a little bit. We’ve got school going on, it’s hot out, so we’re trying to scale things back a little bit and let the kids play and react.”
Like Richland, to which Wa-Hi lost to 26-20 in the second game of the year, a win against Hanford would show the Blue Devils could be a force to be reckoned with in the MCC this season.
“As a staff, we’ve been preaching all week long, you know, they’re good enough,” Hisaw said. “... They’re starting to believe it a little bit more. I’d like it if they’d believe it a whole lot more. If we can get this one under our belt this Friday, there’s no reason to believe these kids can’t go a long, long ways.”